I tend to be a stealthy sinner—a cloistered screw-up. For most of my life, I've managed to fly just under the radar of blatant rebellion.
When I was 12, I made obnoxious prank phone calls and covertly removed (read: stole) a dog-eared copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask from the local library. The dean of women at the college I attended failed to appreciate the fact I mooned a fellow dorm mate. As a 22-year-old, first-year elementary teacher, I came "this close" to my principal catching me entertaining fellow colleagues with an over-the-top impersonation of said administrator.
A few years later, my screw-ups took a more serious turn when as a mother of two children, I blew up in anger and acted out in a manner that terrified both the children and me.
I'm no saint—not by any stretch of the imagination. But as hard as it is to believe, I somehow managed to keep 99.9 percent of such things hidden. As someone who regularly attended church and who appeared to manage a happy family, I avoided any glaring attention to the shadow side of my life—but not without great cost.
My lying about my spending led to financial problems in my marriage. Covetous thoughts robbed me of friendships and contentment. The teenage anger that sent me reeling into a fit of self-mutilation exploded 12 years later in outbursts of rage and abusive anger toward my two oldest children. And when alcohol beckoned me during periods of loneliness and depression, I heeded its call.1